The Blog Tour!

My blog today is part of the blog tour, where writers answer the same four questions about their work and career. Sally Abbott has passed the baton to me – or rather, passed on the four vital questions…

 

What am I working on?

Right now, I’m in the gap between finishing one series of Wolfblood and (hopefully!) starting to write a new one in the autumn – but I’m certainly not short of work! I’m writing an episode of a certain detective series (more will be revealed in due course.) I’m expecting to go pitch again to another existing series in a few weeks time, so I’m preparing story ideas to present to them – always a fun challenge, figuring out which of the many stories you could tell with the characters appeals most to you, and why…

Then there are new projects to be written! I’m starting to pitch ideas in the US now as well as the UK, so I’m working on a new feature script, an espionage thriller, for the US market, as well as ideas for the UK. Combining the two really is the best of both worlds for a writer – different markets, different kinds of stories, different ways of working…

How does my work compare to others of its genre?

I write a lot of different genres – science fiction, supernatural, action, adventure and thrillers – across TV and film, so that’s quite a complicated question. I’m undoubtedly a populist writer, someone who writes for the Saturday night blockbuster audience rather than the arthouse audience, but I still want my work to have depth and resonance. Some of the most profound and human fictional stories in the world are unabashed ‘genre’ pieces, that entertain as well as saying something about human nature, and that’s what I aspire to.

Why do I write what I do?

On a purely practical level, because my mother made the totally uncharacteristic decision to take me to see Star Wars when I was very young. And yes, she’s been regretting it ever since!

But really, I’ve always written to find out what it’s like to be someone else. I already know what ‘everyday’ life is like – now I want to know what it’s like to go into space, to be a soldier or a spy, to have superpowers, to deal with moral dilemmas no human has faced before. And by writing that story, I can live that story for a while.

How does my writing process work?

The more I write, the more convinced I am that careful preparation is the key. Though my process changes slightly from project to project, I usually start with a file box, and throw in everything I find that might relate to the project – photos, newspaper articles, scribbled scraps of dialogue or ideas for a scene. Then I’ll progress to index cards, each with a scene noted on it, and rearrange the order until I have some kind of structure and have filled in the gaps.

Then it’s time for the scene-by-scene outline – an outline so detailed it’s basically a script with no dialogue. This is a technique I’ve learned from writing for television, and now use on all my projects, because it encourages you to tell the story visually, and to iron out story problems before starting the script. Then, maybe after a few polishes of the outline, it’s time to begin the first draft…

Advertisements

I’m A Success, Get Me Out Of Here!

As much as it offends my English sense of modesty to admit it, I seem to be a bit of a success now. Certainly I’m not paying the bills by working in a supermarket any more, and that’s pretty much the definition of being a successful writer, right?
Now, I’m not complaining… Well, all right, I’m a writer, we do nothing but complain! However, I love my job and wouldn’t change it for the world. But what’s interested me over the last year or so is how much actually getting to do what you want changes how you do what you want. And I’ve been noticing a few things.
Something always has to be ’your day job’. Once, I was working the tills at a certain supermarket, and going home to work on Wolfblood evenings and weekends. So writing Wolfblood was the thing I really wanted to be doing. Now I am doing it… And suddenly the other projects I’m trusting to get off the ground seem a lot more exciting and attractive than doing yet another draft of episode five!
Part of that is the attraction of the new, of course. The only script that’s ever perfect is the one you’re just about to start writing, so that’s the one that seems the most fun. But also, to an extent, Wolfblood is my day job now. I love every second of it, but it’s somehow not quite the same experience.
There’s more to writing a TV series than just writing a TV series. There are public appearances, invitations to speak to students or at festivals, meetings, visits to the set, possibilities of spin-offs and merchandise to be dealt with, and of course, endless questions on the blog and on Twitter. Writing the show only takes about six months of the year, but non-writing stuff devours a surprising amount of the rest…
It’s harder to impose your own deadlines once you’ve got used to having them imposed for you. On Wolfblood, of course, when outlines and drafts are handed in is dictated by the production schedule – and there’s always a script editor eagerly awaiting the episode you know you should be working on. But it’s fatally easy to get used to that, and to think of any day when you don’t have an externally-imposed deadline as a potential day off!
Writing anything that isn’t Wolfblood is… odd. Working on a TV series, you’re constantly handing in versions of your work and getting feedback. Reactions are immediate and honest. Ideas are shaped collaboratively. And then you return to something you’re writing on spec, and there’s just you. No feedback, no one to share ideas with, no one to remind you not to blow the budget. It feels a bit weird – and frankly, rather scary…
In other words, however much of a “success” you become, you always go back to square one for the next project. That new idea doesn’t come pre-approved, there’s no one to force you to work on it, and there’s no one rooting for it but you.
And surely that’s a good thing?

The Genre Of Hope

The London Screenwriters’ Festival twitter account recently asked a very interesting question; what is the greatest film genre?

And yes, I know, comparisons are odious and all that… (Hey, wait, I just quoted Evelyn Waugh and John Donne at the same time. Does that mean I’m an intellectual now?)  On the whole I’m not a big fan of Top Tens and  Greatest Ever Blah and “this is better than that” of any kind. The urge to line things up in a definite order and crow over which beats which is not conducive to craft, let alone art.

But it did occur to me that there’s a real answer to this question. And the answer is science fiction.

Why? Because science fiction is the genre of hope.

Horror peers into the abyss of the human heart, drama examines the minutiae of everyday life, historical fiction tells us where we came from (all fascinating things, of course) –  but only science fiction can explore the full potential of the human mind and heart, both for evil and for good. Science fiction tells us who we are, who we’re capable of becoming, and what we need to conquer, in the world and in ourselves, to get there. And that’s why I write it.

You Don’t Have To Be Crazy, But…

One of the funniest things about writers is that we’re largely unaware of our working processes. We do stuff, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but we often have very little sense of how we create ideas and what the best way is for us to work on them.

I’ve recently become painfully aware that every now and then, I become childishly obsessed with a current movie. I watch it repeatedly, irrespective of whether it’s any good or not. It dominates my creative thought processes for weeks. I buy crappy magazines just because they contain an article about it. I’ve even been known to dream about it.

And what seems to be going on is that my imagination has identified a tiny nugget of interest and is processing it in some way, expanding on it, and eventually creating a whole new character or story idea.

Eventually, the movie falls away, and I’m left with a totally original idea, often in a different genre  – inspired by one line of dialogue, a single image, even the look on an actor’s face.

So I figure it’s time for us all to come clean. Fellow writers, what are your crazy writing habits? In what weird ways are you compelled to feed your creative processes? I’m not the only one, right?

(deafening silence)

Right…?

Writing For Children’s Television event, Birmingham

If you’re around Birmingham on Friday 14th June, you can see me, Wolfblood script editor Jonathan Wolfman, and Cheryl Taylor, controller of CBBC, talking about writing for children’s television at a Writer’s Guild event. You can find more details, and book a place, via 

http://www.writersguild.org.uk/news-a-features/events/397-writing-for-childrens-television-birmingham

Should be an excellent evening, and I hope to see some of you there!

Wolfblood wins a Royal Television Society award!

RTS

 

Yup, that’s me at the Royal Television Society awards, where Wolfblood won Best Children’s Drama, and I made a very bad speech, and then met Steven Moffat and geeked out a bit. The glamorous life of a writer, eh?

Seriously, though, it’s fantastic for the first season of the show to have attracted so much attention, including two other award nominations and this win. We intend to keep up the good work!